The Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce has launched a new initiative called Live in Ithaca, a campaign to recruit and retain a diverse local workforce, including recent graduates of Ithaca College.
The initiative aims to connect job seekers with resources to better understand the careers, community and quality of life in Tompkins County, said Jennifer Tavares, president and CEO of the Tompkins Chamber, at the launch event held March 18. Some of the leading funders and partners include the major employers in Ithaca and Tompkins County, including Ithaca College and Cornell University, as well as Cayuga Medical Center and Tompkins Financial Corporation.
Tavares said that Tompkins County follows national trends in struggling to identify and retain a suitable workforce. She said that while there are around 15,000 people who commute to Tompkins County daily to work, predictions for the future show continued job growth but not continued workforce growth due to changing demographics.
Several of the major employers in the county, such as the colleges and universities, consistently have over 100 job openings. Tavares said startup companies and small businesses have a similar issue. She said there are at least 10 openings for executive director positions in the county for nonprofit organizations.
Greg Hartz, president and CEO of Tompkins Trust Company, a local bank, said the goal of the project is to connect the demand for jobs with the supply of job seekers, specifically with people who have either lived in Ithaca and moved away or for students who have graduated from one of the colleges in the county.
“We have a growing company — we’re often looking for professionals,” he said. “The local pool is not sufficient enough and we find ourselves casting the net further and further all the time.”
The website component of the initiative launched March 18. The website is separated into three categories: careers, community and quality of life. The careers section provides networking opportunities with local employers. The community section provides information about neighborhoods in the county, as well as resources about transportation, healthcare facilities, volunteering opportunities and places of worship. The quality of life section links to local restaurants, entertainment and nightlife, recreational activities and events. The website also highlights the stories of residents who work in the community. From the college, the stories of Sean Eversley Bradwell, director of the Center for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Social Change, and Nicole Eversley Bradwell, interim vice president and director of admission, are highlighted.
Dominick Recckio ’16, director of strategic communications and partnerships at the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce, said a magazine will be released twice a year featuring the stories of residents who work with the partner employers, as well as new features of the Ithaca and Tompkins County area.
He said the initiative has been in development for approximately three years. As an alum of the college, Recckio said he is excited to share this initiative with his fellow alumni who no longer live in the area.
“I was really excited about the opportunity to take the things I learned in [Communication Management and Design] at IC and sort of bring that together and help bring this forward,” he said.
Recckio said there are no concrete studies regarding the number of alumni who stay in Ithaca after graduating. In 2014, the Cornell Daily Sun reported that 17 percent of graduates chose to stay in Tompkins County, while 14 percent chose to stay in Ithaca. Over 5,000 students graduate each year from the three local colleges.
“If a certain percentage stayed, it would absolutely help fill the needs of our workforce,” Recckio said.
William Guerrero, vice president for finance and administration, said the initiative is important for the college because it is one of the main and large employers in the county, with approximately 1,700 employees. He said the sense of community that is fostered in Ithaca is a driving factor in recruiting and retaining employees at the college.
Heather McDaniel, president of Tompkins County Area Development, said she thinks the project will help the community partners target better talent, including people who have a connection to Ithaca and might want to come back.
“It really displays all of the career opportunities that are available here, as well as all of the community and extracurricular opportunities that we all love about Ithaca,” she said.
McDaniel said she hopes college students will use the website as a tool to learn more about remaining in Ithaca after graduation.
“I understand that when you’re young you want to go live in a major urban area, but as you leave the community and start your career, know that there are opportunities to come back,” she said.
Gary Stewart, associate vice president of Cornell University community relations, said the initiative is an opportunity for prospective students to learn more about Ithaca. He said hundreds of millions of dollars are put into the local economy from student and visitor spending.
“I get it if people haven’t been up here before — some of upstate New York is kind of dreary,” he said. “But this isn’t. I think it will be a selling point for students who are on the fence about coming up here to Cornell or [Tompkins Cortland Community College] or IC.”